John Obi Mikel: I'm proud of these boys

Nigeria was knocked out of the World Cup after narrowly losing its final Group D match to Argentina.

Published : Jun 27, 2018 02:48 IST , St. Petersburg

John Obi Mikel was distraught after the match, but spoke proudly of his young team.
John Obi Mikel was distraught after the match, but spoke proudly of his young team.

John Obi Mikel was distraught after the match, but spoke proudly of his young team.

A heartbroken John Obi Mikel said that the Nigeria players gave their best in the eventual 2-1 loss to Argentina, which progressed to the round of 16 at the African nation's expense. Nigeria had needed only a point from its final Group D fixture to progress, but a 86th-minute volley from Marcos Rojo ousted Nigeria from the competition.

"I’m proud of these boys, they are young and inexperienced but they gave their best. In four years time, they will be more experienced and we can mount a strong challenge. The bunch of players is amazing and hardworking and I hope we can continue as a team. We will see what happens in the African Nations Cup because I have said that I’ll take a call with every tournament," said Mikel, the Nigeria captain.

Read: Late Rojo stunner saves Messi's men; to face France next

The Nigeria coach, Ben Rohr, was of a similar opinion as his captain, saying the inexperience in the team to deal with the pressure exerted by Argentina in the closing stages cost his team. Rohr also stressed his wish to remain the coach of Nigeria despite a first-round exit from the showpiece event.

"When you have Messi coming on the right with his left foot, you need a defender with a good right foot and that’s K. Omeruo did well to contain him. Messi did score but it was with his right foot. It’s a very young team, the goalkeeper is 19, we have young strikers and I’ll like to continue my work with them.

"We are not yet experienced to deal with such intense pressure, which Argentina applied on us towards the end of the game. They can do very well in the rest of the World Cup and will be a difficult opponent for France. When you have the best player in the world and then add team spirit to it, it becomes a heady combination.

"I would like our captain to lead our time for a few more years. The youngsters listen to him, gain from his experience, making my job easier," he concluded.

Argentina, which finished second in Group D, will face France, which topped Group C, in the round of 16 clash.

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